Categories
WW2 German Prototypes

Waffenträger Panthers – Heuschrecke, Grille, Skorpion

German ww2 tanks Nazi Germany (1942-45)
Self-propelled weapon carriers – Several Wooden Mockups built

Animal Farm

In early 1942 Wa.Prüf 4, the German organization in charge of field artillery, put forward a design requirement for a vehicle to move heavy artillery. The main stipulation was that it should use parts from the new Panther medium tank. A similar competition was already underway for a vehicle to move lighter field artillery, such as 10.5 cm guns, using the Geschützwagen III/IV chassis. This had inspired Wa.Prüf 4 to do the same for a vehicle to move heavier 12.8 cm and 15 cm artillery pieces, as the Geschützwagen III/IV was too small to handle them. The guns in question were the 12.8 cm K 43 and 15 cm sFH 43. The sFH 43 (schwerer Feld Haubitze, heavy field howitzer) was a projected improvement on the 15 cm sFH 18, the new gun was to use bagged propellant and had a screw-type breech. The 12.8 cm Kanone 43 is unknown in most literature but is presumably a predecessor to the 12.8 cm K 44 L/55. Neither of these cannons were ever built.

In order to keep weight down, the designs were to be open-topped. Prototypes were to be built using Panther parts, but it was projected that any serial production vehicles would be made using the Panther II chassis. This idea was discarded when the Panther II was cancelled in June of 1943. Both Krupp and Rheinmetall-Borsig took part in this design competition. All designs were able to be transported by rail with a few adjustments, and all could carry at least 30 rounds, however, Rheinmetall’s design had trouble with this.

Despite these vehicles being colloquially known as waffenträgers, very few designs carried the name waffenträger in their designation. Despite “waffenträger” literally meaning “weapon carrier”, most German weapon carriers were called Selbstfahrlafette, meaning “self-propelled gun carriage”.

Krupp’s Cricket – (Sfl.) Krupp I and II

Krupp immediately set to work and on July 1st, 1942, came up with the 12.8 cm K 43 (Sfl.) Krupp I (indexed Gerät 5-1211) and 15 cm sFH 43 (Sfl.) Krupp I (indexed Gerät 5-1528). Both vehicles were nearly identical, only differing in armament. Both vehicles had a dismountable, 360-degree rotating turret and muzzle brakes on their cannons. The 15 cm sFH 43 (Sfl.) Krupp I’s 15 cm sFH 43 L/35.5 had a range of 18 km (11.18 miles). The chassis was called Bauelemente Fahrgestell Panther, literally “components of the Panther chassis.” No blueprints of these vehicles survive, leaving their appearance a mystery.

Shortly after designing the first vehicles, Krupp produced another version, the (Sfl.) Krupp II. Again, the 12.8 cm K 43 (Sfl.) Krupp II and 15 cm sFH 43 (Sfl.) Krupp II were identical except for armament. This second design also had a fully traversable dismounting turret. The chassis was also lengthened slightly, giving a wheelbase of 4,200mm. A full-scale wooden mock-up of the 12.8 cm version was built in November 1942 and shown to Wa.Prüf 4 in January 1943. At this time Krupp stated they could have a working prototype ready by the 1st of September if they received the needed Pather components by the 1st of May, 1943.


12.8 cm K 43 Selbstfahrlafette Krupp II/Grille 12 (Drawing Copyright Hilary Louis Doyle)


15 cm sFH 43 Selbstfahrlafette Krupp II/Grille 15 (Drawing Copyright Hilary Louis Doyle)



Grille 12 Wooden Mockup

On the 18th of February, 1943, an order was placed for the construction of two (Sfl.) Krupp I prototypes; one 12.8 cm and the other 15 cm. On February 24th, 1943, Wa.Prüf 4 informed Krupp of the cover names that were assigned to their projects. The (Sfl.) Krupp I was named Heuschrecke (Grasshopper), and the (Sfl.) Krupp II was named Grille (Cricket).



These blueprints, from November 25th, 1942, show the existing Grille 15 design on top, and on the bottom show an improved version proposed on the 11th of November. The November 11th design has the fighting compartment 15mm lower and slightly forward than that of the existing design, it is also equipped with a new type of muzzle brake. Whether or not this proposal was incorporated into the Grille 15, we do not know at this time. Source




This set of blueprints show the process by which the gun assembly would be dismounted. The vehicle’s gun barrel would be used as a jib. A block and tackle would be attached to allow it to lift the metal frame pieces off the front of the hull and put them in position behind the turret; forming a ramp. Wheels would be attached to the turret pedestal, and a winch on the hull would lower it down the ramp. Once off the vehicle, support legs could be attached to the turret pedestal allowing it to be used as a field gun. Overall a quite complicated process. Source

On the 11th of March, 1943, due to concerns that production of the new 15 cm sFH 43 would be slow, Wa.Prüf 4 requested that the option of mounting the older 15 cm sFH 18 on the Grille 15 be looked into. By April 20th it was determined that utilizing the sFH 18 would cause too many problems. Instead, development went ahead using the 15 cm sFH 43, incorporating as many parts from the 15 cm sFH 18 as possible.

On April 3rd, 1943 Wa.Prüf 6 (the German organization in charge of military vehicles) stepped in and told Krupp they were only allowed to build a prototype of the Grille. On the 5th of May 1943, Krupp informed Wa.Prüf 6 that the February 8th order for two Heuschreckes had been canceled.

On the 21st of May, 1943, Maschinenfabrik Augsburg Nürnberg (M.A.N.), the company producing the Panther, was told to manufacture a complete set of suspension components, engine, transmission and drive train, as well as driver’s periscope and telescoping air intake for Krupp’s Grille prototype.

On June 7th, 1943, Krupp reported that a 1:10th scale mockup of the Grille would be ready by about mid-July, and a full-size prototype by the 1st of November. At an unknown date the 12.8 cm K 43 cannon was changed to a 12.8 cm K 44 L/55 with conventional breach; the 15 cm sFH 43 as well now had a conventional breech instead of a screw-type breach.

By the 20th of October, 1943, Krupp had failed to produce a prototype. Wa.Prüf 4 saw the project as going nowhere and ordered Krupp to stop all work on the project. Krupp did stop work on the Grille and Heuschrecke, but continued to design Panther-based weapons carriers.


Grille Design from January 18th, 1943 (Drawing Copyright Hilary Louis Doyle)

If at First You Don’t Succeed… – Selbstfahrlafette mit Absetzbarer 15 cm sFH 18

On January 20th, 1944, Krupp produced drawing SKA 879 for the Selbstfahrlafette mit Absetzbarer 15 cm sFH 18 (Self-propelled vehicle with dismountable 15 cm sFH 18). The vehicle was basically a normal Panther chassis with a wheelbase of 3,920mm; however, the rear of the hull was lengthened slightly to support a rear mounted artillery turret. The turret rested on a metal box; the turret and box forming the fighting compartment. Using metal beams apparently attached to the idler wheel, the entire assembly could be lifted up and off the vehicle by driving a few feet in reverse. Once off the chassis, the gun assembly could be used as a standalone artillery piece.

On February 3rd, 1943, Krupp presented a second design with drawing SKB 891. This version had the turret centrally mounted with the engine in the rear. The turret, which looks remarkably similar to that of the Heuschrecke 10, was lifted off over the front of the tank in the version 2, as opposed to over the rear as in the version 1. A wooden mockup of the Selbstfahrlafette mit Absetzbarer 15 cm sFH 18 version 2 was built, but neither design progressed past this point.


A conceptual model of the Selbstfahrlafette mit Absetzbarer 15 cm sFH 18, for unknown reasons, the chassis is not that of a Panther. Perhaps originally it was intended to use a custom chassis. This design has often been misidentified as the Heuschrecke 15.


Selbstfahrlafette mit Absetzbarer 15 cm sFH 18 Version 1 (Drawing Copyright Hilary Louis Doyle)


Selbstfahrlafette mit Absetzbarer 15 cm sFH 18 Version 2 Wooden Mockup

Skorpion of the Rhein – (Sfl.) Rheinmetall-Borsig

Like Krupp, Rheinmetall-Borsig also presented their first designs on the 1st of July, 1942. They were the 12.8 cm K 43 (Sfl.) Rheinmetall-Borsig (indexed Gerät 5-1213), and 15 cm sFH 43 (Sfl.) Rheinmetall-Borsig (indexed Gerät 5-1530). The vehicles were identical except for armament. Both had a 360-degree rotating turret and a hydraulic gun dismounting mechanism designed by Daimler-Benz, similar to that used on the Heuschrecke 10.

The 12.8 cm version was armed with a 12.8 cm K 43 L/51 with no muzzle brake. It fired a 28 kilogram projectile at 850 meters per second (2,789 ft/s), at a maximum range of 22 km (13.67 miles). The gun assembly for this version weighed 6.2 metric tons; the total weight of the vehicle was about 38 metric tons. The 15 cm version was armed with a 15 cm sFH 43 L/32.5; identical to the gun used on Krupp’s design except that Rheinmetall’s had no muzzle brake. The armament weighed 8.2 metric tons and consequently left the vehicle weighing 40 metric tons – 2 tons more than the 12.8 cm version. A prototype for each was expected to be ready by Summer 1943.

Rheinmetall’s design was seemingly met with little enthusiasm; Krupp’s Grille was the clear favorite. Despite the design not having been rejected, Rheinmetall chose to drop their original entry and proceed with another design.


12.8 cm K 43 Selbstfahrlafette Rheinmetall-Borsig – please note the end of the barrel has been cropped off in this image. (Drawing Copyright Hilary Louis Doyle)


15 cm sFH 43 Selbstfahrlafette Rheinmetall-Borsig (Drawing Copyright Hilary Louis Doyle)

On January 7th, 1943, Rheinmetall produced three more designs. In reality, these were the same vehicle, but with different armaments. The vehicles had centrally mounted, 360-degree rotating, dismountable turrets. The chassis was that of a Panther, extended to a wheelbase of 4,220mm.

Drawing H-SkB 80449 for 15 cm sFH 43 (Sfl.) Rheinmetall-Borsig
Drawing H-SkB 80450 for 12.8 cm K 43 (Sfl.) Rheinmetall-Borsig
Drawing H-SkB 80451 for 12.8 cm P 43 (Sfl.) Rheinmetall-Borsig

This version of the 15 cm sFH 43 (Sfl.) had a slightly longer gun barrel at L/34. It fired a 43.5 kilogram projectile at 600 meters per second (1,968.5 ft/s) up to 15 km (9.32 miles) range. The 12.8 cm P 43 was a high-performance (presumably) dedicated anti-tank gun. It fired a sub-caliber 14 kilogram (31 lb) shell at 1,175 meters per second (3,855 ft/s). Rheinmetall said they could have a prototype ready by the 1st of August if they received the needed Panther parts by the 1st of April, 1943. A wooden mockup was built of one of the 12.8 cm-armed versions, but this design did not advance any further.


12.8 cm K 43 Selbstfahrlafette Rheinmetall-Borsig – January 7th, 1943 (Drawing Copyright Hilary Louis Doyle)


12.8 cm Selbstfahrlafette Rheinmetall-Borsig – January 7th, 1943 Wooden Mockup

On or around the 24th of February, 1943, Rheinmetall’s entry for the Selbstfahrlafette für 12.8 cm K 43 und 15 cm sFH 43 Project was assigned the cover name “Skorpion”. This name probably covered the January 7th design, but since it is not known when Rheinmetall abandoned it, it cannot be said for certain.

Unwilling to stop perfecting the design, Rheinmetall continued to design more versions. On the 2nd of April 1943, they produced drawing H-SKA 81959 for the 12.8 cm Skorpion mit Panther Bauteilen; and on April 16th drawing H-SKA 82566 for 15 cm sFH 18 mit Panther Bauteilen. These designs had a Panther-based chassis with a wheelbase of 4,025mm. Around the 20th of October 1943, Wa.Prüf 4 canceled the Grille, Heuschrecke, and Skorpion projects.


12.8 cm Skorpion mit Panther Bauteilen – April 2nd, 1943 (Drawing Copyright Hilary Louis Doyle)


15 cm Skorpion mit Panther Bauteilen – April 16th, 1943 (Drawing Copyright Hilary Louis Doyle)

Not Done Yet – 15 cm sFH 18 auf Panther Bauteilen

Despite the Skorpion project being canceled, Rheinmetall continued to make more vehicle proposals in the early part of 1944. These final designs shared the modified Panther chassis developed for the Skorpion. Drawing H-SKA 86187 from the 11th of January, 1944 was yet another proposal for mounting the 15 cm sFH 18 on a Panther-based chassis. An improved version of this design came on January 31st with drawing H-SKA 88200. At some point, the mounting of the gun was raised from 2,500mm to 2,750mm off the ground to allow greater elevation. Further details are unknown.

It seems that after this, Rheinmetall-Borsig stopped all work on Panther-based weapons carriers. If they did take part in the design competition for the July 6th, 1944 requirement; the design has been lost. However, it is more likely they did not; leaving Krupp the only entry.


H-SKA 88200 (Drawing Copyright Hilary Louis Doyle)

Round Two – Mittelerer Waffenträger sFH 18 auf Panther

Please note that the dates for this section are contradictory. Panther & Its Variants gives the date of the issuing of the Geschützwagen Panther für sFH 18/4 (Sf) requirement as February 11th, 1944; while Panther Variants 1942-1945 gives it as July 6th. July seems to be the correct date; it also comes from the more recent book. Strangely, one sentence in Panther & Its Variants says that the Gerät 811 was based on “AZ 735 Wa.Prüf 4/Is from July 6th, 1944.” This would seem to indicate that the Gerät 811 was an entry for the July 6th requirement; perhaps the authors did not realize this at the time. Very little is known about the Gerät 811, apart from the fact it was armed with a 15 cm sFH 18/4. It is plausible that Krupp’s Mittelerer Waffenträger sFH 18 auf Panther was assigned the designation Gerät 811, but that is just conjecture.

On the 6th of July 1944, Wa.Prüf 4 put out the Geschützwagen Panther für sFH 18/4 (Sf) requirement: a request for designs for a vehicle based on the Panther. In near identical repetition of the events two years prior, the requirements were that the vehicle carries a 15cm gun in a dismountable turret that could rotate 360 degrees. The 15 cm sFH 18 cannon was required to have no muzzle brake, as it was supposed to be able to fire Sprenggranate 42 TS sabot rounds. Without the muzzle brake, the force of recoil of the cannon was a massive 28 metric tons; this was deemed acceptable for the chassis.

Krupp was the only company to show interest; on the 16th of September 1944, they unveiled drawing Bz 3423 for the Mittelerer Waffenträger sFH 18 auf Panther. It had a hexagonal, forward mounted turret on a lightly armored Panther chassis. The turret rested on a round pedestal within the tank. To remove the turret assembly, the turret was traversed 90 degrees to the left. The left side panel was folded down, forming two guide rails running perpendicular to the tank. At the end of each guide rail was a vertical spar, reinforced to one another with crossbeams. Roller blocks with two wheels each were affixed to either side of the turret and allowed it to be hoisted up, presumably by hand, onto the guide rails, where it was free to roll. Exactly how the turret was then moved off the tank is unclear. This whole process is described only in “Panther & Its Variants”, which states that two block and tackles were used to lift the turret. These would require some type of overhead gantry, which, if correct, raises the question as to why hoisting the turret assembly onto guide rails first is necessary at all. Presumably, the Panther was then driven away and the turret assembly lowered to the ground.

However the dismounting process was intended; once the turret assembly was on the ground four outriggers, which were otherwise stored fore and aft of the turret on the tank’s hull, were attached to it. Wa.Prüf 4 required that the number of outriggers be changed to three, as this would lower the gun’s overall height and give the gun crew easier access.

Shortly afterward, on the 21st of September 1944, Krupp produced a second version with the turret mounted centrally. Along with the second version, Krupp also proposed a version armed with the 12.8 cm K 44 L/55 (with muzzle brake). The 12.8 cm version’s turret was longer and slightly taller.


Mittelerer Waffenträger sFH 18 auf Panther Version 2 – 15 cm Version (Drawing Copyright Hilary Louis Doyle)


Mittelerer Waffenträger K 44 auf Panther Version 2 – 12.8 cm Version (Drawing Copyright Hilary Louis Doyle)

Only one day later, on the 22nd of September 1944, Krupp representative Dr. Bankwitz met with Wa.Prüf 4 in Berlin. Despite the requirement for a weapons carrier being only two months old, Wa.Prüf 4 ordered Krupp to stop all work on these designs, as they were no longer needed and the Panther chassis was no longer to be used for such purposes.

Never Give Up, Never Surrender

Completely ignoring Wa.Prüf 4’s demands, Krupp produced drawing Bz 3445 on October 12th, 1944 for the Mittelerer Waffenträger sFH 18 auf Panther (dünnwandig) (dünnwandig means “thin-walled”). This was a lighter version of the Mittelerer Waffenträger sFH 18 auf Panther. It had thinner armor, carried only 50 rounds of ammunition instead of 60, and had a redesigned, cylindrical turret. These changed saved 7 metric tons of weight.

On the 25th of October 1944, the High Command General of Artillery suggested doing away with the requirement for a dismountable, 360 degree traversing turret for possible future weapons carriers. However, this was deemed necessary and the suggestion was declined. On the 23rd of December 1944, General Wolfgang Thomale requested that the High Command General of Artillery hold off on issuing another panther-based weapons carrier requirement, as Panther production numbers were lower than expected. Instead, he requested that they wait to see if the role could be fulfilled by the upcoming 38(d) platform.

Due to the situation of the War in late 1944 and 1945, surviving information on the remaining projects is highly fragmented.
A Directive dated November 19th, 1944, ordered the cessation of the Gerät 808 project, a Panther-based weapon carrier for the 15 cm sFH 18/2, due to the plans not being ready.
A telex message dated February 6th, 1945, stated that the chassis without turret that Krupp required for the Schwerer Panzerhaubitze was waiting at the steel works in Hannover.
A February 20th, 1945 report on the emergency situation of the War gave a list of projects that were to be immediately terminated. On that list was a 15 cm sFH 18 auf Panther Bauteilen.

Sources

Special Panzer Variants: Development – Production – Operations – Hilary Louis Doyle and Walter J. Spielberger, 2007
Panther Variants 1942-1945 – Osprey New Vanguard, 1997
Panther & Its Variants – Walter J. Spielberger, 1993

Waffenträger 12.8 cm K 43 Selbstfahrlafette Krupp II/Grille 12
12.8 cm K 43 Selbstfahrlafette Krupp II/Grille 12 illustration by David Bocquelet

Waffentrager 12.8 cm Skorpion mit Panther Bauteilen
Waffentrager 12.8 cm Skorpion mit Panther Bauteilen by Jaroslav Janas


Mittelerer Waffenträger sFH 18 auf Panther Version 2 – 15 cm Version. Illustration by David Bocquelet and Alexe Pavel

Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Categories
WW2 German Prototypes

Raupenschlepper Ost Artillery SPG

German self propelled artilleryNazi Germany (1943-44)
Artillery SPG – 4 Prototypes built

Weapon Carrier or SPG?

The German’s experimented with transporting and mounting a number of different guns on the back of the Raupenschlepper Ost light ‘prime mover’ tracked vehicle. The name Raupenschlepper Ost is translated to “Caterpillar Tractor East”. It is commonly abbreviated to just RSO.
The prototypes were shown to the army. The Raupenschlepper Ost 7.5 cm Pak 40 tank destroyer self-propelled gun went into production. Between 80 and 90 were produced. Most saw action on the Eastern Front. A version of the RSO that carried a 2cm Flak38 anti-aircraft gun mounted to the floor of the rear wooden cargo bay also saw service.
At present no documentation has been found relating to the mounting and carrying of artillery guns on the back of the Raupenschlepper Ost even though there are surviving photographs of four different prototypes: the 7.5 cm GebH 36 auf RSO/3; 7.5 cm Gebh 34 auf RSG; 10.5 cm GebH 40 auf RSO/1 and 15 cm sIG 33 auf RSO/3.
It is not clear if these prototypes were going to be used as a Waffenträger weapon carrier or as a Selbstfahrlafette Geschuetzwagen, a self-propelled artillery gun.
This is why a weapons carrier was a good idea
This is why a weapons carrier was a good idea. Towed guns could become waterlogged and covered in mud.
If they were used as a Waffenträger then how was the gun dismounted? There is photographic evidence that the guns were loaded on the vehicle by a winch attached to a freestanding metal frame on a hard surface. Another photograph shows a Raupenschlepper Ost reversed back towards an earthen ramp so the gun could be pushed onto the back of the vehicle.
On a battlefield, it would be difficult to build a ramp quickly or make sure there was a hard surface for a winch and frame to be constructed on to enable the guns to be unloaded. The guns were heavy and if the load bearing frame was put together on soft earth its legs would sink into the ground under the weight.
If these prototype vehicles were intended to be used as a Selbstfahrlafette Geschuetzwagen, or self-propelled artillery guns, the problem the engineers would have to overcome was the recoil.
With the artillery gun mounted in the back of the vehicle, they were very top heavy and had a high center of gravity. There was a danger that the RSO would topple over.
It can be theorized that two of the prototypes were intended to be used as artillery SPGs but tests showed the RSO chassis was not strong enough to take the gun recoil so they were never put into production. This is supported by the fact that on the photographs of the 7.5 cm GebG 36 auf RSO/03 the side panels are down and it can be seen that the gun wheels had been clamped to the deck of the vehicle and the gun ‘tails’ had been shortened. The 7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 34 auf Gebirgsraupenschlepper (RSG) also carried a similar sized howitzer.
RSO mit 7.5 cm GebG 36
7.5 cm GebG 36 auf RSO/3
The other two prototypes seen in photographs are carrying much bigger 10.5cm and 15cm howitzers. There is no evidence that these guns were bolted to the wooden cargo bay of the RSO tracked vehicle so that it could be fired. The gun’s split trail legs had not been modified to fit the length of the vehicle. They protrude out the back and the rear ‘spades’ are carried in the back of the vehicle for use when the gun is set up on land again. The RSO tracked vehicle is being used as a Waffenträger weapon carrier in these examples.

The Raupenschlepper Ost RSO tracked vehicle

The RSO light ‘prime mover’ tracked vehicle had a very basic suspension design with all steel wheels and just four small leaf springs. This made it cheap and easy to produce. It had high ground clearance and excellent performance in poor terrain. It was a tracked version of the Steyr 1½-tonne truck. It could carry a 1,500 kg (3,307 lb) load in its cargo bay.
The Steyr-Daimler-Puch manufacturing company designed the Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO) to be used to tow field guns and transport supplies over rough ground in muddy waterlogged and snowy conditions. They were in production between October 1943 and May 1944: Steyr-Daimler-Puch produced 2,600 vehicles; Klockner-Deutz-Magirus (KHD) manufactured 12,500; Auto-Union made a further 5,600 and Graf & Stift constructed 4,500 RSOs. They were used extensively on the Eastern Front.
There were four main variants. The RSO/01, RSO/02 and RSO/PaK40 were powered by a 3.5L Steyr V8 gasoline/petrol 70hp engine. The RSO/03 had a better performing Deutz F4L514 5.3L 4-cylinder air-cooled diesel engine although produced lower horsepower at 66hp.
RSO/01 towing a field gun
RSO/01 towing a field gun
The RSO/1 had a fully enclosed pressed steel rounded cab with a wooden rear cargo bay. The RSO/2 had a flat sided metal cab. The RSO/3 was manufactured by KHD at their Magirus Factory and had a simplified slab-sided metal cab. The RSO/PaK40 had a lightly armored low profile steel cab to enable the 7.5cm PaK40 anti-tank gun mounted on the rear flat rear bed wooden cargo bay to fire forward.
RSO Fully Tracked Artillery Prime Mover
RSO/3 fully tracked artillery prime mover

7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 36 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/3)

To mount the 7.5cm Gebirgsgeschütz 36 (7.5 cm GebG 36) light mountain howitzer on the back of the Raupenschlepper Ost tracked vehicle cargo bay the spades at the end of the split trail legs were removed. The legs were also cut down in length to allow the back tail gate to be raised. The wheels were bolted to the wooden floor in a special semi-circular frame. This gun was meant to be fired from the back of the RSO. It could no longer be dismounted and fired from the ground without having new split trail legs fitted. It could not function as a Waffenträger weapon carrier. It was a Selbstfahrlafette Geschuetzwagen, a self-propelled artillery gun prototype.
7.5cm Gebirgsgeschütz 36 (7.5 cm GebG 36) light mountain howitzer mounted on the rear of a RSO/3
7.5cm Gebirgsgeschütz 36 (7.5 cm GebG 36) light mountain howitzer mounted on the rear of an RSO/3
The gun was built by Rheinmetall to replace the World War One mountain divisions (Gebirgs Divisionen) guns. Between 1938 and 1945, records show 1,193 were built. It was a standard German horizontal sliding breech block gun with a muzzle brake. It used a variable recoil system that shortened the recoil as the elevation increased to stop the gun breach hitting the ground. Rear trunnions were added to lengthen the distance between the breech and the ground. The recoil mechanism was hydropneumatic, with both buffer and recuperator positioned below the barrel.
To keep the weight down the gun was fitted with light-alloy disc wheels with rubber rims. No protective gun shield was fitted to save weight. It weighed 750 kg (1,650 lb) so it was within the cargo weight limit of the RSO.
When used on the ground, the 7.5 cm GebG 36 would jump when fired at low angles, because of its lightness. The strength of the recoil would force the gun’s trail spades to act as a fulcrum and lever the wheels upwards. The shell canister bag charge 5, the largest propellant increment, was forbidden to be used at near horizontal angles under 15° because the gun would jump excessively. When the gun was fired at higher angles it performed better as the ground absorbed any residual recoil forces not absorbed by the recoil system. On the back of the RSO the vehicles suspension, tracks and the ground had to absorb the force of the recoil from the gun.
The 7.5cm Gebirgsgeschütz 36 mountain howitzer used two-part ammunition, with four bag charges of propellant that were added together depending on the range of the target. A larger 5th charge bag was used on its own when the target was at the limit of the howitzers maximum range. It fired a high explosive HE 5.83 kilograms (12.9 lb) shell that had a maximum range of 9.25 km (10,120 yards). It could also fire smoke shells and in an emergency a hollow charge armor piercing AP rounds at short range. A good gun crew was able to produce a rate of fire of six to eight rounds per minute.
This mountain gun could be broken down into six separate parts, each having a maximum weight of 300 pounds. This ability enabled the weapon to be easily transported by pack animals or in an airplane.
The gun’s 56-inch barrel was of a monobloc construction. To enable larger more powerful charges to be used and to increase the range of the gun without damaging the gun barrel, it was fitted with a perforated, six-baffled muzzle brake.

7.5 cm GebH 36 auf Gebirgsraupenschlepper (RSG)

Gebirgsraupenschlepper (RSG) mit 7.5 cm GebH 34
Gebirgsraupenschlepper (RSG) with a 7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 34 mountain howitzer mounted on its rear cargo bay next to a RSO/3 tracked vehicle.
This photograph shows the smaller Steyr made Gebirgsraupenschlepper (RSG) mountain troop tracked vehicle next to the larger Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/3) vehicle. There is a 7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze (GebH) mountain howitzer mounted on the back of the RSG. Only one photograph has been found so far of this prototype artillery self-propelled gun. The photograph below has been enlarged and edited.
The problem is that the caption that went along with this photo identified the gun on the back as a captured Belgium army Swedish built Bofors 75 mm Model 1934 mountain gun (Canon de 75 mle 1934). It was recorded as a 7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 34 auf RSG, but this gun was not fitted with a circular perforated muzzle brake.
It can be theorized that the howitzer on the back is the same gun used on the 7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 36 auf Raupenschlepper Ost which does have a circular perforated muzzle brake. Just like on the other vehicle, it would have had its split tail legs cut to fit the length of the wooden cargo bay and the wheels clamped to the floor so that the gun could be fired from the back of the vehicle.
Gebirgsraupenschlepper (RSG) mit 7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 34
7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 34 auf Gebirgsraupenschlepper (RSG)
RSG - Gebirgsraupenschlepper – Caterpillar Tractor for Mountain Troops
RSG – Gebirgsraupenschlepper – Caterpillar Tractor for Mountain Troops – Vienna Military Museum


Illustration of the sIG33 auf Raupenschlepper Ost conversion by David Bocquelet10.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 (10.5 cm GebH 40) mountain howitzer on the back of a Raupenschlepper Ost
10.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 mountain howitzer on the back of a Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/1)
7.5 cm Gebirgsgeschütz 36
7.5 cm Gebirgsgeschütz 36 German mountain howitzer
10.5 cm GebH 40 Howitzer
10.5 cm GebH 40 howitzer – Photo – Yuri Pasholok
The 15 cm sIG 33 (schweres Infanterie Geschütz 33) was the standard German heavy infantry gun used in the Second World War.
The 15 cm sIG 33 (schweres Infanterie Geschütz 33) was the standard German heavy infantry gun used in the Second World War – unknown modeler

10.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/1)

There is a poor quality photograph showing a 10.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 (10.5 cm GebH 40) mountain howitzer on the back of a Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/1).
In the picture, it looks like the vehicle has been backed up to ramp of earth. There appear to be wooden planks spanning the gap between the top of the earth mound and the back of the RSO/1. Its tail gate is hinged down and so are the wooden side panels. These wooden planks would have been used to enable the gun to be pushed onto the back of the vehicle.
RSO mit 10.5 cm GebH 40
10.5 cm GebH 40 auf RSO
Unlike on the photographs of the 7.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 36 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/3), there is no visible evidence that the larger 10.5cm GebH 40 gun had been fixed to the wooden floor of the cargo bay. The split trail legs had not been cut and shortened. They projected over the rear of the vehicle.
There was no special semi-circular locking wheel frame in use. The spades that were normally fitted to the end of the split trail legs had not been attached. Their triangular shape can be seen at the back of the gun.
Was this photograph taken of an early live firing trial to see if the RSO/1 could take the gun recoil or just to see if it could take the weight of the gun? It is not known, as no documents have been found so far.
In the other surviving photographs the gun is seen on the back of the RSO/1 with the wooden side panels in the up position, the split trail legs sticking out the back and the tail spades loaded on the rear with the tail gate panel in the down position.
10.5 cm GebH 40 mountain howitzer on the back of a Raupenschlepper Ost
10.5 cm GebH 40 mountain howitzer on the back of a Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/1)
The RSO/1 tracked vehicle has the manufacturing company’s name and logo on the side. This is a factory vehicle, not one that has been sold to the army. It is safe to assume that it is the company, Steyr-Daimler-Puch, who was experimenting with showing that the 10.5cm GebH 40 mountain howitzer can be transported on the back of their vehicle.
10.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 (10.5 cm GebH 40) carried on the rear of a RSO/03
10.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 (10.5 cm GebH 40) carried on the rear of an RSO/03.
In these three, better quality photographs it looks like a frame and winch had been used to lift the gun onto the back of the RSO/1. These photographs would suggest that this vehicle was being used as a Waffenträger weapon carrier. At present, there is no evidence to suggest the vehicle was used as a Selbstfahrlafette Geschuetzwagen, a self-propelled artillery gun, and fired from the back of the cargo bay, as there are no visible mountings or fixings to secure the gun to the vehicle.
10.5cm gun being loaded on the back of a RSO/1
10.5cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 mountain howitzer being loaded on the back of an RSO/1 by winch and frame
There only appears to be photographs of a 10.5 cm Gebirgshaubitze 40 mountain howitzer on the back of one RSO tracked vehicle. It is highly unlikely that the experiment was a success as the weight of the gun exceeded the designed load weight of the vehicle. The gun weighed 1,660 kg (3,660 lb) and the RSO’s load weight limit was 1.500 kg (3,307 lb). The RSO’s center of gravity would have been significantly raised. Both these things would have made the vehicle tricky to drive.

15 cm sIG 33 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/3)

15 cm sIG 33 auf RSO-03 
15 cm sIG 33 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/3)
There is only one photograph currently available of a 15 cm sIG 33 (schweres Infanterie Geschütz 33), the standard German heavy infantry gun in WW2, loaded on the back of a Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO/3) tracked vehicle. The split trail legs can be seen sticking out the back of the vehicle. There had been no attempt to cut them to fit the length of the RSO/3’s wooden cargo bay.
This was not a test to see if the 15 cm sIG 33 howitzer could be fired from the back of the vehicle. The gun was too big and the RSO/3 would not have been able to handle the violent recoil. This vehicle was not a German Selbstfahrlafette Geschuetzwagen, a self-propelled artillery gun. It was almost assuredly a trial to see if the gun could be carried on the back of the RSO/3.
The experiment most likely failed, as the weight of the gun exceeded the designed load weight of the vehicle. The gun weighed 1,800 kg (4,000 lb) and the RSO’s load weight limit was 1.500 kg (3,307 lb). The RSO’s center of gravity would have been significantly raised. Both these things would have made the vehicle sluggish and difficult to maneuver. The RSO/3 was not a suitable vehicle to be a Waffenträger weapon carrier for the 15 cm sIG 33 howitzer.

Conclusion

The most plausible theory is that the Steyr-Daimler-Puch manufacturing company wanted to win a lucrative German government contract to build self-propelled artillery guns using their cheap to produce Raupenschlepper Ost light tracked vehicle and RSG. They exhibited four prototype vehicles that had different artillery howitzers mounted on the back to the government inspectors.
Two of the guns used were too big for the RSO tractor. The 7.5cm mountain howitzer was light enough and could be mounted to the floor of the wooden cargo bay at the rear of the RSO and RSG vehicles. These prototypes seemed viable as artillery SPGs.
At the time there was competition from other vehicle and arms manufacturers who wanted to win the same contract. Their designs used sturdier German tank chassis or captured enemy armored fighting vehicles on which to mount artillery guns. They won the contract, not Steyr-Daimler-Puch.

An article by Craig Moore

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 7.19 m x 3 m x 2.87 m
(14ft 6in x 6ft 6in x 8ft 6in)
Total weight unladen 7,728 lb (3,505 kg)
Armament 7.5cm Gebirgsgeschütz 36
Track width 13 inch/24 inch with snow plates (33/61 cm)
RSO/1-2 Propulsion 3.5L Steyr V8 gasoline/petrol 70hp engine
RSO/3 Propulsion Deutz F4L514 5.3L 4-cylinder air cooled diesel engine 66hp
Fording depth 34 inches
Top road speed 30 km/h (18 mph)
Operational range (road) 300 km (155 miles)

Sources

U.S. Office of Chief of Ordnance, 1945 Catalog of Enemy Ordnance
Weapons of the Thrid Reich by Gander and Chamberlin
German Artillery of World War Two by Ian Hogg
Marcus Hock
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

German Self-Propelled Artillery Guns of the Second World War
German Self-Propelled Artillery Guns of the Second World War

By Craig Moore

One towed artillery gun required a team of six horses and nine men. WW2 German engineers came up with the idea of mounting an artillery gun on top of a tank chassis. This new technology reduced the amount of resources required to deploy one artillery gun. Artillery self-propelled guns only needed a four or five man crew. They could also be made ready to fire more quickly. This book covers the development and use of this new weapon between 1939 and 1945. One type was successfully used in the invasion of France in May 1940. More were used on the Eastern Front against Soviet forces from 1941 until the end of the war in 1945.

Buy this book on Amazon!

Categories
WW2 German Prototypes

Panzer IV mit Hydrostatischem Antrieb

Nazi germany Nazi Germany (1944)
Prototype – 1 built

In 1943, an alternative drive system for the Panzer IV entered development. This was the Hydrostatischem Antrieb or Hydrostatic Drive, also known as the “Thoma” drive.
It was designed and produced in the Augsburg plant of ZF Friedrichshafe, and was tested on a turret-less Panzer IV Ausf. G chassis that had been badly damaged during combat operations.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

Hydraulics

Pz IV Hydro 2
Surviving Panzerkampfwagen IV mit Hydrostatischen Antrieb in the US. Note the now sloped engine deck, and the smaller rear drive wheels. (Source:- commons.wikimedia.org)
The Thoma system operates in a similar way to the petrol/electric drive system produced by Porsche for his Tiger I concept vehicle that would later become the Ferdinand/Elefant. This system was a lot safer, however, as it was a petrol/hydraulic system. This gave the benefits of the Porsche system without the fire risk that plagued it so badly.

The Hydrostatic Drive system outside of the vehicle. Photo: – Spielberger Publishing
The Panzer IV chassis underwent heavy modification to be able to mount this new drive system. The engine compartment of the tank was almost completely removed and rebuilt. The drive was placed in the rear of the tank under a large sloping engine deck. Two oil pumps were installed behind, and connected directly to the normal Maybach HL 120 TRM engine. These powered two hydraulic motors. A swash plate drive sent the power through a reduction gear into the newly added rear drive wheels, which replaced the traditional idler wheel.

The new controls added to the Panzer, note the new control “wheel” and the many new dials. Photo: – Spielberger Publishing
Inside the crew compartment, the old drive shafts were removed along with the large gearbox and final drive assembly at the bow end of the vehicle. The traditional steering tillers were replaced with a crescent-like wheel, similar to the one found on Tiger I. Directional movement was achieved by two control cylinders. These cylinders regulated the volume of the oil inside the pump. This governed the amount of power the drive wheels would receive. Two large 780mm adjustable toothed idlers replaced the original Panzer IV drive sprockets.
Later in 1944, the vehicle was tested with a hydraulically powered turret. Unfortunately, more information on this modification is unavailable.


Tanks Encyclopedia’s own rendition of the Panzer IV with Hydrostatic Drive, by Jarosław Janas.

Fate

Only one prototype of the vehicle with this drive system was built by the time the Allies were knocking on Germany’s door. In April 1945, the US 3rd Infantry Division was advancing through southern Germany and into Bavaria. They broke into Augsburg on the 27th and had the whole city secured by the 28th. With the city, they captured the Zahnradfabrik plant, and the test vehicle.

The Turretless hull of the Panzer in the Zahnradfabrik plant. Photo: – Spielberger Publishing
After the war, the vehicle was shipped back to the United States, where it was subjected to thorough tests by Vickers Inc. Detroit, Michigan until at least 12th April 1946, when a report stating how the drive worked was drafted:

“The powertrain consisted of two staggered-plate oils pumps that are assembled as a unit and are driven by a 12-cylinder Maybach engine. Oil is pushed by the pumps to two separate oils engines which power the drive wheels of the tracks. The oil engines are attached to the final drive housings. The engine and power aggregate are located in the rear of the vehicle, and the vehicle is moved by rear mounted drive wheels. The volume of the pumps is controlled by the driver, who thereby controls the torque of the various pressure conditions that are created by the steering and stopping of the vehicle. In the same manner, the forward and backward movement of the vehicle is achieved by directing oil flow. Pressurized oil to activate the pumps and engines and for the high-pressure connections was advanced by a geared-wheel pump that was connected to the vehicle’s engine by direct drive.”

Unfortunately, the German test data has been lost to history. The vehicle was left in the open, exposed to the elements, at the U.S Army Ordnance Proving Grounds, Aberdeen in Maryland. In 2015 it was moved to the U.S. Army Center for Military History Storage Facility, Anniston, AL, USA, where it has the officially long-winded designation of “Tank, Medium, Full Track, Experimental Transmission, German Army, Steel, Tan, PzKpfw IV, 75mm Gun, German, 1945, World War II”.
Pz.Kpfw IV mit hydrostatischen antrieb
This Pz.Kpfw IV mit hydrostatischen antrieb is now in storage in the U.S. Army Center for Military History Storage Facility, Anniston, AL, USA. (Photo – Masa Narita)

An article by Mark Nash

Panzer IV mit Hydrostatischem Antrieb

Dimensions 5.41 x 2.88 x 2.68 m (17.7×9.4×8.8 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 25 tons
Crew 5
Armament Rheinmetall 75 mm (2.95 in) KwK 40
2-3 MG 34/MG 42 7.92 mm (0.31 in) machine-guns
Armor From 15 to 65 mm (0.59-2.56 in)
Propulsion Maybach V12 gasoline HL 120 TRM
(220 kW) 300 [email protected] rpm
Suspension Leaf springs
Speed on /off road 42 km/h (26 mph)
Total production 1

Links & Resources

Panzer IV und seine Varianten (Panzer IV and its Variants) Spielberger and Doyle.
Panzer Tracts No. 4, Panzerkampfwagen IV, Grosstraktor to Panzerbefehlswagen IV
Panzer Tracts No. 4-3, Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. H and Ausf. J, 1943 to 1945
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Categories
WW2 German Prototypes

10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger IVb

Nazi germanyNazi Germany (1942)
SPG – 1 or 3 built

The Grasshopper

The German 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ ‘Grasshopper’ was designated a weapon carrier (waffenträger) and not a self-propelled artillery gun. The reason for this is that the turret could be removed from the top of the modified Panzer IV tank chassis by a block and tackle rig attached to a movable metal frame.
The idea was that the gun crew could keep up with the armoured Panzer Divisions. When needed to fire as an artillery battery, to give long range support firing high explosive shells over the heads of the German infantry and tank crews, The gun would be removed and placed on the ground where it could be fired like a normal artillery gun.
10.5cm le.F.H.18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb prototype at the Krupp-Grusonwerks factory
The 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ ‘Grasshopper’ artillery SPG prototype at the Krupp-Grusonwerks factory
The heavy lifting metal framework could be swung upright into position by a hydraulic system or a manual back up system. When not needed it was lowered down and stored on top of the upper track guards on both sides of the tank chassis.
The vehicle could carry 87 high explosive shells. If more were needed the turret could be removed and placed on a gun carriage and towed behind the tank chassis. This allowed for more ammunition to be carried onto the battlefield. The modified Panzer IV tank chassis became a turretless armoured ammunition carrier. This configuration would have only worked in gentle undulating countryside or on roads. The gun carriage wheels and frame were carried on the tank chassis at the rear.
The 10.5cm howitzer could also be fired from on top of the tank chassis. There was no top to the turret. There were a few disadvantages of an open topped vehicle. The crew was exposed to the elements and were also at risk of injury from enemy thrown hand grenades, mortars and shrapnel from air burst enemy shells. A canvas tarpaulin rain cover was produced.
10.5cm le.F.H.18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb prototype
The side and rear of the open topped turret could be folded down to give more room for the crew to work the 10.5cm LeFH 18 gun

It was not a movable pillbox

Some books have argued that the reason for removing the turret was because it could be used as an armoured pillbox. This was not its function. It was an artillery gun that was designed to operate behind the front line. It was not an anti-tank gun. The protective armour that surrounded the gun was not of a thickness that would have stopped armour piercing tank shells. It was only designed to protect the gun crew from small arms fire and high explosive shell and mortor round shrapnel fragments.

Two competing models

The German armament factory of Alkett and Rheinmetall-Borsig based near Berlin had come up with a similar prototype design called the 10.5 cm leFH 18/40/2 auf Geschützwagen III/IV. It did not have the lifting gear on the side of the vehicle but the turret was removable just like the Krupp-Gruson design.
It used the standard Panzer IV tank chassis and had slightly better performance than the Krupp-Gruson’s Heuschrecke IVb Grasshopper. The Alket Rheinmetall-Borsig model was completed in March 1944.

Design

In May 1943 German Army weapon designers decided to build a prototype Heuschrecke IVb. It would built using a Hummel SPG chassis and a 10.5cm LeFH 18/l light field howitzer in a removable turret.
In June 1943 the Krupp-Grusonwerk factory started work on building this new armored fighting vehicle using a new Hummel chassis number 320148. Other sources state that three prototypes were built, with serial numbers 582501, 582502 and 582503.
The Hummel self-propelled artillery gun had powerful 15cm sFH 18 L/30 heavy field howitzer mounted on a specially designed Alkett/Rheinmetall-Borsig lengthened German tank chassis called the Geschützwagen III/IV. It was also referred to as the IVb.
These prototypes were referred to as the Heuschrecke 10 or Heuschrecke IVb. The word Heuschrecke means Grasshopper. It was quite appropriate. The long folded metal lifting equipment kept on top of each track mud guard looked like a grasshoppers insect legs. The number 10 refers to the size of the gun, the 10.5cm. The number IVb refers to the modified Panzer III/IV tank chassis
Components were adopted from both the Panzer III and Panzer IV tank chassis. The more robust final drive wheels, front drive wheels and steering units plus the Zahnradfabrik SSG 77 transmission gearbox were adopted from the Panzer III Ausf.J.
The Maybach HL 120 TRM engine with its cooling system, the suspension, and idler with track tension adjustment were adopted from the Panzer IV. The engine was moved from the rear of the tank to the center of the vehicle to make room for the gun and the armored fighting compartment at the back of the SPG.
The Geschützwagen III/IV tank chassis did not have a hull mounted machine gun. Crews would be issued with a single MG34 or MG42 machine gun, carried inside the fighting compartment, for self-defence.
The Krupp-Gruson designers envisioned that the Heuschrecke IVb would start to replace the 10.5cm leFH 18 auf Gahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II Wespe self-propelled artillery gun in May 1944.
The tank engineers at the Krupp-Grusonwerk armaments factory made changes to the superstructure and chassis to enable the Heuschrecke turret to be fitted and the installation of the hydraulic mechanism needed to dismount the turret.
The Hummel was powered by a Maybach HL 120 TRM engine that was fitted in the middle of the vehicle to allow more room for the gun crew to work the gun at the back of the vehicle. This was changed for the 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ prototype. The engine and the radiators were moved to the rear of the chassis.
The Heuschrecke IVb prototype turret was armed with the 10.5cm leFH 18/1 L/28 light field howitzer. The production models, however, were to have the newer, more powerful 10.5cm leFH 43 L/28.
10.5cm leFH 18/1 L/28 auf Waffentrager IVb
The 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffentrager IVb SPG under going live firing trials. Notice the slightly different configuration of the early hydraulically operated arms for dismounting the turret compared to later photographs. The gun carriage wheels have not been fixed to the rear of the vehicle for these trials. The side and rear turret panels have been folded down to give the crew more room to work the gun.

Weapon Trials

The German Army Weapons Agency (Heereswaffenamt) sent weapon testing inspectors from the Gliederung Waffenamt Prüfwesen (Wa Prüf 4) artillery section to examine the new artillery SPG. They submitted a report following their inspection visit on the 28th September 1943.
On the positive side they noted it used mature tested parts. It could be traversed through 360 degrees and fired at high elevations when dismounted. The design worked and had adequate space for stowage of equipment and ammunition. It could carry 87 10.5cm shells.
On the negative side they concluded the 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ would be expensive to produce and the dismounted turret wasn’t mobile.
The first trials happened on 11th October 1943 at Hillersleben. The hydraulic arms were used to dismount the turret. It was found to be too heavy. A lighter redesigned turret was manufactured and ready for testing by the end of December 1943.
At the end of January 1943, to complement the hydraulic turret dismounting system, the design team at Krupp started work on a backup hand powered system in case of problems with the hydraulics on the battlefield.
On the 28th March 1944 the Wa Pruef 4 artillery weapon testing inspectors were present at a second demonstration of the modified 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’.
Their recommendations after that visit were that a hand-operated crane, for dismounting the turret, be fabricated. Wheels were to be added to the dismounted turret frame, and installing a standard gun carriage and recoil management recuperator cylinder from the le.F.H. 18 gun.
On the 31st May 1944 the newly modified 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’, with a parallelogram hand-operated crane and wheels for the dismounted carriage, were demonstrated to the Wa Pruef 4 artillery weapon testing inspectors.
This time their report conclusion stopped any further development and design work on this project. They concluded that the 3.8 tonne dismounted turret was unusable on the battlefield. The 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ ‘Grasshopper’ never entered mass production.
There was no dramatic advantage to building this weapon over the 15cm Hummel, 10.5cm Wespe or 15cm Grille artillery self-propelled guns that were already in production. These vehicles were less complicated to produce and operate.

The 10.5cm gun

The 10.5 cm leFH 18 gun was a German light howitzer used in World War II. The abbreviation leFH stands for the German words ‘leichte FeldHaubitze’ which, translated, means light field howitzer. It was fitted with a ‘Mundungbremse’ muzzle brake to allow longer range charges to be fired and reduce the amount of recoil on the gun. This increased the operational life of the gun barrel.
The 105mm high explosive HE shell weighed 14.81 kg (32.7lb). The armour piercing shell weighed 14.25 kg (31.4lb). It had a muzzle velocity of 470 m/s (1,542 ft/s) and a maximum firing range of 10,675 m (11,675 yds). With a good gun crew, it had a rate of fire between 4-6 rounds per minute.
The 10.5cm leichte Feld Haubitze 18 gun was not very useful in the direct-fire mode against enemy armored vehicles. It could only penetrate 52 mm (2 in) of armor plate at a very short range of 500 meters.
The high explosive shell was in two pieces. It was a ‘separate loading’ or two part round. First, the projectile would be loaded and then the cartridge propellant case.

Surviving prototype

When the American Army occupied Germany at the end of the war they found a surviving 10.5cm le.F.H.18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb prototype. It was shipped back to the US Army Ordnance Corps proving grounds at Aberdeen, Maryland for testing and evaluation. It was transferred to Fort Still in 2012 and the Grasshopper 10 was restored by the Fort Sill Directorate of Logistics paint shop.

An article by Craig Moore

Gallery

10.5cm le FH18/1 (sf) auf Geschutzwagen IVB
Factory prototype 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ ‘Grasshopper’ painted in Dunkelgelb dark sandy yellow livery – Illustration by David Bocquelet
10.5cm le FH18/1 (sf) auf Geschutzwagen IVB
10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ prototype in panzer grey livery – Illustration by David Bocquelet
10.5cm le.F.H.18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb prototype.
10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ ‘Grasshopper’ prototype
10.5cm le.F.H.18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb rear view
The two large wheels at the back of the 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ ‘Grasshopper’ and the metal strut with the holes it on top of the track mud guards were used to construct a gun carriage.
Turret removal on the Grasshopper
10.5cm leFH 18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb turret
Gun crews would erect the load carrying gibbet on the back of the vehicle chassis then remove the turret. It was placed onto a the gun carriage frame on the floor. Once it was locked into position it would be raised again so the gun carriage wheels could be fitted. The gun could then be towed.
grasshoper tank carriage

Surviving Grasshopper

10.5cm le.F.H.18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, USA
Restored 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ ‘Grasshopper’ at US Army Fort Sill, Oklahoma, USA (Photo – Jon Bernstein)
10.5cm le.F.H.18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb at APG
Before it was recently restored the 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV ‘Heuschrecke IVb’ ‘Grasshopper’ was kept out in the open at the US Army Ordnance Corps proving grounds at Aberdeen, Maryland before being moved to Fort Sill.
10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV Heuschrecke IVb GrasshopperClose up view of the 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV Heuschrecke IVb Grasshopper turret whilst it was being restored at Fort Sill. (Photo: Jon Bernstein)
10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV Heuschrecke IVb Grasshopper
The 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV Heuschrecke IVb Grasshopper under restoration in
the Fort Sill workshops. (Photo: Jon Bernstein)
10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV Heuschrecke IVb Grasshopper
Side view of the restored 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV Heuschrecke IVb Grasshopper at Fort Sill with the rear arms raised. (Photo: Jon Bernstein)
10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV Heuschrecke IVb Grasshopper
Rear view of the restored 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger Geschützwagen III/IV Heuschrecke IVb Grasshopper at Fort Sill with the rear arms raised. (Photo: Jon Bernstein)

Waffenträger IVb Specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 6.57 m x 2.9 m x 2.65 m
(21ft 7in x 9ft 6in x 8ft 3in)
Total weight, battle ready 24 tonnes (26.45 tons)
Crew 5 (commander, driver, gunner, 2x loaders)
Propulsion Maybach HL 120TRM 12-cylinder water cooled gasoline/petrol engine, 285 hp
Fuel capacity 360 liters
Top road speed 38 km/h (24 mph)
Operational range (road) 225 km (140 miles)
Main Armament 10.5 cm leFH 18/6 howitzer with 87 rounds
Secondary Armament Hand held 9 mm machine pistol
Hull Armor Front 30 mm
Sides and Rear 16 mm – 20 mm
Turret Armor Front 30 mm
Sides and Rear 15 mm
Total built 1 or 3

Sources

German Self-Propelled Weapons by Peter Chamberlain & H.L.Doyle
Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten Panzer Tracts No.10 by Thomas L. Jentz
German Artillery at War 1939-45 vol.1 by Frank V.de Sisto.
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

German Self-Propelled Artillery Guns of the Second World War
German Self-Propelled Artillery Guns of the Second World War

By Craig Moore

One towed artillery gun required a team of six horses and nine men. WW2 German engineers came up with the idea of mounting an artillery gun on top of a tank chassis. This new technology reduced the amount of resources required to deploy one artillery gun. Artillery self-propelled guns only needed a four or five man crew. They could also be made ready to fire more quickly. This book covers the development and use of this new weapon between 1939 and 1945. One type was successfully used in the invasion of France in May 1940. More were used on the Eastern Front against Soviet forces from 1941 until the end of the war in 1945.

Buy this book on Amazon!

Categories
WW2 German Prototypes

10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen III/IV

Nazi germanyNazi Germany (1942)
SPG – 1 built

Alkett’s Waffenträger Weapon Carrier

The German weapons manufacturers Alkett Rheinmetall-Borsig tried to compete with Krupp-Gruson to produce an amored fighting vehicle that would carry a 10.5cm Leichte Feldhaubitz 18/40/2 L/28 light field howitzer onto the battlefield like a self-propelled gun, and also allow the gun to be lowered to the ground.
This then enabled the tank chassis to function as an armoured ammunition carrier. The driver could return to the nearest supply point and load the vehicle with more high explosive HE shells and propulsion canisters. The gun could also be fired from its armored open top turret on top of the vehicle without the need to lower it.
Alkett prototype
Alkett prototype 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV artillery SPG
The Krupp-Gruson design was called the 10.5cm leFH 18/1 L/28 auf Waffenträger IVb. The Alkett Rheinmetall-Borsig design was given the name 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV. The German word Waffenträger means ‘weapon carrier’ and Geschüetzwagen translates to ‘gun vehicle’ (it was often abbreviated to just GW). Both words are appropriate to describe these vehicle’s function.
It was also called the 10.5cm leFh/40/2 (Sf) Geschutzwagen PzIVb, or 10.5cm leFh/40/2 (Sf) GW PzIVb or 10.5cm le.F.H. 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf GW III/IV. The letters (SF) stand for ‘Selbstfahrlafette’ – self-propelled carriage. The abbreviation leFH stands for the German words ‘leichte FeldHaubitze’ which, translated, means light field howitzer.
To remove the turret and gun on the Krupp-Gruson design, a large folding metal gantry was mounted on the rear of the vehicle. When it was folded down the long metal arms were stowed on top of the track guards. This vehicle was given the nickname of the Heuschrecke, the Grasshopper, as the folded metal arms looked like the legs of a grasshopper.
It is easy to tell the two designs apart. The Alkett Rheinmetall-Borsig 10.5cm weapon carrier does not have any external folding metal struts on top of its track guards unlike the Krupp-Gruson design.
The 10.5cm LeFH 18/40/2 L/28 light field howitzer’s carriage rails and wheels were stowed at the rear of the vehicle on the outside. When the gun crew wanted to dismount the howitzer from the vehicle to use it as conventional artillery gun on the ground, they would unlock the gun from its mount and use a jack to lift it up and off.
The armored superstructure of the turret is hinged at the front to allow it to be folded forward to give more room to the gun crew during the removal procedure. The carriage, carriage wheels, and rear rails would then be reattached. A ramp down from the top of the vehicle would be fitted and a manual block and tackle winch system were used to lower the gun down to the ground. The reverse procedure would be used to remount the gun on top of the vehicle.
The howitzer could be fired from on top of the vehicle like a normal self-propelled gun. It could traverse through 360 degrees, as it was mounted on a turntable gun platform that was counter sunk into the top of the tank chassis.
There was no top to the turret. There were a few disadvantages of an open topped vehicle. The crew was exposed to the elements and were also at risk of injury from enemy thrown hand grenades, mortars and shrapnel from air burst enemy shells. A canvas tarpaulin rain cover was produced to give some protection from the elements.
10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf GW III/IV
10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf GW III/IV artillery SPG

Design and testing

Alkett submitted its designs for a 10.5cm howitzer weapons carrier self-propelled gun to the German Army Weapons Agency (Heereswaffenamt) Gliederung Waffenamt Prüfwesen (Wa Prüf 4) artillery section on 27th September 1943.
The first prototype was ready for testing on 28th March 1944. It was demonstrated to the Wa Pruef 4 weapons inspectors at Hiliersleben. The gun crew took around 15 minutes to dismount the howitzer and mount it on the newly designed Schiesspilz (firing pedestal). The gun could not be traversed a full 360 degrees on the ground.
The inspectors submitted a report that recommended the protective turret armor was to be increased in thickness, that the Schiesspilz (firing pedestal) be carried on the vehicle, and that the howitzer be modified so that it could fire to the rear of the vehicle at an angle of -5 degrees.
Alkett suggested that the turret superstructure armor could be angled to increase the gun crew’s protection. This suggestion was rejected as it decreased the amount of ammunition that could be stored.
The Wa Pruef 4 weapons inspectors re-evaluated the new modified prototype after a second demonstration on 28th May 1944. They were happy with the changes. As a Panzer III/IV self-propelled gun tank chassis was going to be used, it was felt that field trials would not be necessary as this chassis was already being used in the production of the Hummel and Nashorn self-propelled guns.
The design team at Alkett/Rheinmetall-Borsig had already lengthened a German tank chassis. It was called the Geschützwagen III/IV. Components were adopted from both the Panzer III and Panzer IV tank chassis. The more robust final drive wheels, front drive wheels and steering units plus the Zahnradfabrik SSG 77 transmission gearbox were adopted from the Panzer III Ausf.J. The Maybach HL 120 TRM engine with its cooling system, the suspension, and idler with track tension adjustment were adopted from the Panzer IV.
The first twenty-five production 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen III/IV were due to be completed by October 1944 but there were long delays at the factory. The German Army Weapons Agency (Heereswaffenamt) canceled the order on the 12th December 1944 before any were completed.
A revised design which did not feature the countersunk turntable gun platform was put forward and accepted. The gun would now only have a limited traverse when mounted on the tank chassis like a normal self-propelled gun. This was hoped to make production cheaper and simpler. An initial order for 250 of these vehicles was approved. The first 35 would be built by February 1945 and the rest to follow. There are no production report documents that suggest any of these vehicles were produced.
There was no dramatic advantage to building this weapon over the 15cm Hummel, 10.5cm Wespe or 15cm Grille artillery self-propelled guns that were already in production. These vehicles were less complicated to produce and operate.

The 10.5cm gun

The 10.5 cm leFH 18 gun was a German light howitzer used in World War II. The abbreviation leFH stands for the German words ‘leichte FeldHaubitze’ which, translated, means light field howitzer. It was fitted with a ‘Mundungbremse’ muzzle brake to allow longer range charges to be fired and reduce the amount of recoil on the gun. This increased the operational life of the gun barrel.
The 105mm high explosive HE shell weighed 14.81 kg (32.7lb). The armor piercing shell weighed 14.25 kg (31.4lb). It had a muzzle velocity of 470 m/s (1,542 ft/s) and a maximum firing range of 10,675 m (11,675 yds). With a good gun crew, it had a rate of fire between 4-6 rounds per minute.
The 10.5cm leichte Feld Haubitze 18 gun was not very useful in the direct-fire mode against enemy armored vehicles. It could only penetrate 52 mm (2 in) of armor plate at a very short range of 500 meters.
The high explosive shell was in two pieces. It was a ‘separate loading’ or two part round. First, the projectile would be loaded and then the cartridge propellant case.

An article by Craig Moore

Sources

German Self-Propelled Weapons by Peter Chamberlain & H.L.Doyle
Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten Panzer Tracts No.10 by Thomas L. Jentz
German Artillery at War 1939-45 vol.1 by Frank V.de Sisto.


The 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen III/IV prototype painted in Dunkelgelb. Illustration made by Jarja.

The same vehicle illustrated by David Bocquelet

Gallery

10.5cm Leichte Feldhaubitz 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV
10.5cm Leichte Feldhaubitz 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV prototype artillery weapon carrier self propelled gun.
10.5cm Leichte Feldhaubitz 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV prototype artillery weapon carrier self propelled gun
Gun carriage wheels attached to the rear of the 10.5cm LeFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV prototype artillery SPG
Alkett prototype 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV artillery SPG
A 10.5cm LeFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV in the middle next to a Nashorn SPG.

Surviving vehicle

Surviving 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV prototype owned by Kevin Wheatcroft and kept in storage in Southern England
Surviving 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschüetzwagen III/IV prototype owned by Kevin Wheatcroft and kept in storage in Southern England.
10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen III/IV
Along the top of the open casement superstructure are small D rings. These were used to tie down the bad weather tarpaulin.
10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf GW III/IV
Notice the empty retractable Gun carriage wheel holders at the back of this preserved 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf GW III/IV.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 7.19 m x 3 m x 2.87 m
(23ft 6in x 9ft 8in x 9ft 4in)
Total weight, battle ready 25 tonnes (27.55 tons)
Crew 5 (commander, driver, gunner, 2x loaders)
Propulsion Maybach HL 120 TRM 12-cylinder water cooled gasoline/petrol engine, 265 hp
Fuel capacity 500 liters
Top road speed 42 km/h (26 mph)
Operational range (road) 300 km (186 miles)
Main Armament 10.5 cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 howitzer with 85 rounds
Secondary Armament Hand held 9 mm machine pistol
Hull Armor Front 30 mm
Sides and Rear 20 mm
Turret Armor Front 10 mm
Sides and Rear 10 mm
Total built 1

Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

German Self-Propelled Artillery Guns of the Second World War
German Self-Propelled Artillery Guns of the Second World War

By Craig Moore

One towed artillery gun required a team of six horses and nine men. WW2 German engineers came up with the idea of mounting an artillery gun on top of a tank chassis. This new technology reduced the amount of resources required to deploy one artillery gun. Artillery self-propelled guns only needed a four or five man crew. They could also be made ready to fire more quickly. This book covers the development and use of this new weapon between 1939 and 1945. One type was successfully used in the invasion of France in May 1940. More were used on the Eastern Front against Soviet forces from 1941 until the end of the war in 1945.

Buy this book on Amazon!

Categories
WW2 German Prototypes

Gefechtsaufklärer Leopard (VK16.02)

Nazi Germany (1942)
Light tank – Mockup built

The Leopard that Never Prowled

The need for a small, fast scout tank in the Wehrmacht had long been overlooked. Light tanks and various armored cars had been pressed into this duty when needed. However an all new tank design was coming up, one that would defeat the heavily armored Soviet tanks such as the T-34 and KV-1. It was decided to develop a new scout tank based off of it.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

Work was started on the Leopard by M.A.N. in mid 1941, paralleling the development of, and taking inspiration from, the Panther. At this time, M.A.N. had a contract to produce 5 experimental chassis. Blueprints for a wooden mockup were ready in November 1941. In January 1942, Wa.Prüf. 6 (the governing body for tank development) decided to turn detailed design work on the chassis of the Leopard over to MIAG, and the turret to Daimler-Benz. This would allow M.A.N. to focus work on the Panther, which was needed on the Eastern Front as soon as possible.
It is worthy of note that even before the winning design for the Panther was chosen, work had already been started on the Leopard. Daimler-Benz was developing their own version based on their VK30.02(DB) when M.A.N.’s design was chosen. How far Daimler-Benz’s design was developed, or how it may have looked, is not known.
The VK16.02 was based on experience gathered with its closest relative, the VK16.01, also known as the Panzer II Ausf.J. However, the two tanks are very much dissonant, with the Panzer II Ausf.J being more like the British infantry tank Matilda than a scout tank.

The Fuhrer’s Meddling

By the end of May, 1942, a full size wooden mockup had been built. Preliminary designs were shown to Hitler in March of 1942. At this time, he was given the following projections: Design work was to be complete by the end of October, and production was to start in April of 1943. Production was to total 105 tanks by the end of 1943, with 150 more in the spring of 1944. On June 4th, 1942, Hitler was again shown designs for the Leopard; a lighter, faster, 18 ton version, and a heavier, and more thickly armored, 26 ton version. He picked the heavier design, opting for increased fordability and heavier armor, while rejecting the idea that 26 tons was too much for small bridges. On July 27th, 1942, MIAG presented Wa.Prüf. 6 with design FKo 252, for the Gefechtsaufklärer Leopard.
The tank had 50 mm (1.97 in) of frontal armor set back at 50 degrees. Side and rear armor was 30 mm (1.18 in), with deck and belly armor of 16 mm (0.63 in). Armament consisted of a 5 cm (1.97 in) KwK 39 L/60, and a single 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 42. It was crewed by four men: a driver, a commander, a gunner, and a loader who was also the radio operator. Propulsion was provided by a Maybach HL 157 P engine putting out 550 hp at 3,600 rpm, driving a Maybach OG 55 11 77 semi-automatic gearbox with 8 forward, and one reverse gear. In common with most German tanks, the transmission was at the front. Communication between the crew was done by intercom, and with other tanks by a FuG 2 radio; or a FuG 5 and FuG 7 for command tanks.
In September 1942, production plans for the Leopard were as follows: 1 in April 1943, 3 in May, 5 in June, 7 in July, 11 in August, 18 in September, with production leveling out at 20 per month in October, 1943. At the same time, Hitler had ordered production of 150 tanks per month, as well as all work on the lighter, 18 ton version to be dropped. Albert Speer met with Hitler on October 13th, 1942, to discuss tanks. Speer informed Hitler that troops unanimously preferred the 18 ton design over the 26 ton design. Speer also pointed out that the 26 ton Leopard was barely different from the Panther, and at that point why wouldn’t they just use the Panther as a basis for a scout vehicle. Hitler agreed that the 18 ton (which at this point was already 22 tons) Leopard could be produced, as long as the role of heavy scout tank could be filled with a Panther variant. On January 3rd, 1943, Hitler decided the Leopard would be dropped, as its armor and armament did not meet specifications that would arise in 1944.
Aufklarungspanzer Panther - Credits: Panzer Tracts 20-2
Aufklarungspanzer Panther – Source: Panzer Tracts 20-2

Leopard’s Legacy

The Panther-based scout vehicle, known as the Aufklärungspanzer Panther, never made it past the design phase. For the rest of the war the only dedicated scout tank to be produced was the Panzer II Ausf.L Luchs, though this was still seen as a stop-gap design. The only physical contribution that came of the Leopard design was the turret; it appears a modified version of Daimler-Benz’s Leopard turret was used on the Sd.Kfz.234/2 Puma armored car. Although there is no documentation to back up that fact, the Puma’s turret is nearly identical to the Leopard’s turret; the only difference being the sides of the turret on the Puma were angled at 20 degrees, compared to the Leopard’s 30.

Variants

Two vehicles were based on the Leopard’s chassis, a Waffenträger (weapon carrier) and a tank destroyer. Hardly anything is known about ether of them.
The 10,5cm LeFH Waffenträger auf Leopard was designed by Rheinmetall. Only a wooden mockup was built.
The Sturmgeschutz Leopard tank destroyer was designed in the autumn of 1942; it was armed with the Panther’s 7,5cm KwK 42 L/70.
Both projects were canceled when the Leopard was dropped.

An article by Harold Biondo

VK 16.02 Leopard specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.74 x 3.1 x 2.6 m (14.7 x 10.2 x 8.6 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 21.9 Metric tons
Armament 5cm (1.97 in) KwK 39 L/60 with 50 rounds
7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 42 with 2400 rounds
Armor 16mm to 50mm (0.63 in to 1.97 in)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, radio operator/loader)
Propulsion Maybach HL 157 P, 550 hp (410 kW)
Speed 60 kph (37 mph) maximum speed, 45 kph (28 mph) realistic top speed
Suspension Torsion bar
Estimated range 500 km (311 mi) on road, 300 km (186 mi) off road
Status 1 wooden mockup

Sources

German Armored Rarities 1935-1945 (Schiffer)
Panzer Tracts 20-2
Encyclopedia of German Tanks of WW2 revised edition

A Gefechtsaufklärer Leopard in a fictional livery, as it might have appeared, had it gone into service in 1944
A Gefechtsaufklärer Leopard in a fictional livery, as it might have appeared, had it gone into service in 1944

Vk 16.02 MAN
by Giganaut

Three way view - Source: Panzer Tracts 20-2
Three way view – Source: Panzer Tracts 20-2
10,5cm leFH Waffentrager auf VK16.02 Leopard
10,5cm leFH Waffentrager auf VK16.02 Leopard Source
Around the internet this tank is claimed to be the Leopard; it is not. These photos are of a Panzer II Ausf.L Luchs variant
Around the internet this tank is claimed to be the Leopard; it is not. These photos are of Panzer II Ausf.L Luchs V29, which was modified with a wooden superstructure and Praga diesel engine. Source
Originally published on August 21, 2016
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Categories
WW2 German Prototypes

Kugelpanzer

Nazi germany Nazi Germany (Year of construction unknown)
Prototype – 1 built

Introduction

After the First World War, unique concepts to deal with the No Man’s Land issue came by the bucketload. One of more unique ideas being the rolling or ball tank. The Germans were the first to try a working prototype with the Treffas-Wagen in 1917. Another concept came in 1936 with the “Tumbleweed tank”, designed by the Texan inventor A.J. Richardson. It never left the drawing board.
Listed as Item #37 in the Kubinka tank museum, the Kugelpanzer, or Rollzeug (literally meaning “ball tank” and ”rolling vehicle”), is visually similar to its Treffas-Wagen predecessor. It is the only known built example of one of these ball-tanks still in existence. It is a rarity among military vehicles.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

The vehicle was captured by the Red Army. The most commonly believed theory is that at some point in the 1940s it was sent to Japan as part of Germany’s technology sharing scheme, and was captured in 1945 in Manchuria. However, another report states that it was captured at the Kummersdorf proving grounds along with the infamous Maus.
kugel-front
A front view of the Kugelpanzer as it sits in Kubinka. Source: – geektimes.ru

Design

The vehicle, manufactured by the famous Krupp company, is believed to be a one man scouting vehicle. It is definitely not an offensive AFV, as the armor is only 5 mm at its thickest. The only armament it would’ve carried may have been an MG 34 or 42, or in the case of Japanese service, possibly a Type 96 LMG mounted a few inches below the vision slit. The port is now welded over.
The tank consists of a centre cylindrical compartment with a single direct vision slit at head height, and a large ingress/exit hatch at the rear. The vehicle moved via two rotating hemispheres that make up the sides of the vehicle. These hemispheres were powered by a single cylinder two-stroke engine, which powered the vehicle to a meagre 8 km/h. It’s believed that it used the smaller wheel on the rear of the tank to steer, and keep it stable.

Fate

The tank’s secrets are closely guarded by the Russians. For many years it sat in the Kubinka Tank Museum hidden behind a Tiger I. Its original olive green paint was covered in a gloss-grey, the same paint that covered the Sturer Emil. Its internal components, including the engine, were completely stripped, and taking metallurgical samples is completely forbidden. After almost 80 years, no one knows what it is even made of. The tank will likely remain one of the larger mysteries in tank design for quite some time.
Early in 2017, the Kugelpanzer was repainted in a darker ‘German Grey’ and saw the addition of Balkenkreuz on the hub of each wheel. It has also been moved into a new exhibit. See the video below.

Video by Yuri Pasholok.

kugelblitz
Tanks Encyclopedia’s own rendition of the Kugelpnzer
kugel-side
A side shot of the Kugelpanzer displaying its supporting tail. Source: – www.britmodeller.com

Theories

Over the years there has been much conjecture about what the Kugelpanzer was designed for. The most common beliefs are that it meant to be a cable layer, artillery spotter, or scout vehicle. No one even knows whether it’s a pre/early war design, or a late war design.
It is this author’s theory, however, that it is a pre-war design for an infantry support weapon, that could traverse a no-man’s land kind of environment. The “Tumble-weed tank” design of the same era, was also of the same purpose. An armored vehicle, not as heavy or cumbersome as a tank, that would move at the same speed as the infantry while giving fire support. In the Kugelpanzer’s case, this fire support would’ve been given by a single machine gun. Its armor would’ve stood against small arms fire, but anything larger that an anti-tank rifle would go straight through. If the vehicle was used by the Japanese, it is possible that, after the outbreak of WWII, with its fast moving battlefields, the Germans realized the futility of the design and shipped it to the Japanese.
However, there are no sources to back any of these speculations. Until documents about the vehicle will emerge from the Russian archives, little else can be done to ascertain the Kugelpanzer’s origin and purpose.
An article by Mark Nash

Kugelpanzer

Dimensions Height (diameter) 4.9 ft (1.5m), Length 5.5 ft (1.7m)
Crew 1 (driver)
Propulsion Single Cylinder 2-stroke.
Speed (road) 4.9 mph (8 km/h)
Armament Belived to be 1 7.62 mm machine gun
Armor 5 mm (0.1 in) all round
Total production 1

Links & Resources

Kugelpanzer on strangevehicles.greyfalcon.us
Kugelpanzer on argunners.com
Kugelpanzer on www.keptelenseg.hu (Hungarian)
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2